Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Slow growth of childhood brain tumors linked to genetic process seen in skin moles

24.06.2011
New findings could explain why some childhood brain tumors grow slowly or spontaneously regress

Johns Hopkins researchers have found a likely explanation for the slow growth of the most common childhood brain tumor, pilocytic astrocytoma. Using tests on a new cell-based model of the tumor, they concluded that the initial process of tumor formation switches on a growth-braking tumor-suppressor gene, in a process similar to that seen in skin moles.

The findings, published in the June 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, could lead to better ways of evaluating and treating pilocytic astrocytomas.

“These tumors are slow-growing to start with, and sometimes stop growing, and now we have a pretty good idea of why that happens,” says Charles G. Eberhart, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Pathology, Ophthalmology and Oncology at Johns Hopkins. “These tumors also can suddenly become more aggressive, which we now think represents an inactivation of this tumor-suppressor gene, and this inactivity could be used as a marker to determine which patients need more therapy.”

Pilocytic astrocytoma arises in brain cells known as astrocytes, which, among many functions in the brain, help support neurons. These cancerous astrocytes have DNA mutations that force a growth-related gene, BRAF, into an abnormal, always-on state. Biologists call such cancer-driving genes oncogenes.

Eberhart and his team used a viral gene-transfer technique to deliver an oncogenic, always-on version of BRAF, to fetal brain cells in a lab dish. The idea was to create a cell model of pilocytic astrocytoma, to enable easier study of its growth patterns. As the researchers expected, the cells quickly formed tumorlike colonies – but the growth of these colonies soon sputtered out.

The same phenomenon, sparked by an oncogene, was first described six years ago in a study of the biology of skin moles. Moles typically begin in skin cells whose inherited or spontaneous mutations – often affecting BRAF – drive the cells’ growth beyond normal limits. “The oncogene drives the excessive growth of skin cells, which forms a mole. This overgrowth triggers the downstream activation of tumor-suppressor genes, which stops the mole from growing further,” says Eberhart.

In the current study, Eberhart and his colleagues found evidence that this same process, which is called oncogene-induced senescence, also occurs in pilocytic astrocytoma and minimizes its spread. As their tumor-model cells became senescent, the activity of p16, a well-known tumor-suppressor gene, increased and acted as a brake to stop further tumor growth.

Next, the researchers checked pilocytic astrocytoma samples from 66 patients, using a tissue registry at the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology. Most (57 of 66) showed signs of p16 tumor-suppressor activity, and the remaining nine samples had no signs of p16 activity. Of the p16-active tumors, only two samples (3.6 percent) were from patients who had died of their cancer; however, three of the nine samples with inactive p16 (33 percent) were from patients who had died.

“Our hypothesis now is that these tumors become fast-growing and aggressive again when they can somehow find a way to shut off p16 and escape senescence,” says Eric Raabe, M.D., Ph.D., fellow in pediatric oncology at Johns Hopkins. “In many cases, a single tumor may contain some cells that are senescent plus others that have escaped senescence and started proliferating again,” he added.

In future work, Eberhart says, he and his colleagues will examine whether a new class of BRAF-inhibiting cancer drugs has the unintended side effect of shutting down p16. “Clinical trials of these BRAF inhibitors are now just starting in the U.S. and Europe,” he says. “We think it’s important to determine whether these drugs end up affecting the process of oncogene-induced senescence.”

The study was supported by the PLGA Foundation, Children’s Cancer Foundation, the Pilocytic/Pilomyxoid Astrocytoma Research Fund at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Lauren’s First and Goal, St. Baldrick’s Foundation Fellowship, and the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Freiburg, Germany.

Other researchers involved in the study were Kah Suan Lim, Alan Meeker, Xing Gang Mao, Deepali Jain, Eli Bar, Julia M. Kim, and Kenneth J. Cohen from Johns Hopkins; and Guido Nikkhah, Jarek Maciaczyk and Ulf Kahlert of the University Hospital, Freiburg.

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center
Office of Public Affairs
Media Contact: Vanessa Wasta
410-955-1287; wasta@jhmi.edu

Vanessa Wasta | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhmi.edu

Further reports about: BRAF Cancer Pathology Slow Growth brain cell cancer drug skin cell suppressor gene

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Correct connections are crucial
26.06.2017 | Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

nachricht One gene closer to regenerative therapy for muscular disorders
01.06.2017 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>